How would I describe something as "sketchy" in Spanish? In the sense of something questionable or unsavory, like dark alley ways or the wrong part of town.

For example in the sentence:

I don't trust most of the people I meet at that bar, it's a really sketchy place. Someone even tried to sell me drugs in the bathroom.

In Spain I was told that the closest thing was "perro y fluta" referring to how the homeless have dogs and play flutes, but that didn't seem to translate back here in Texas.

Can anyone confirm/deny or offer another translation that is more localized to Latin American Spanish?


5 Answers 5


Slang is difficult - Latin American slang in particular varies a lot from place to place. In Chile, "flaite" is a tolerably good translation of at least one meaning of "sketchy", but I'd be surprised if that word were well known in Texas.

  • I think this nails it. The Wikipedia page even uses it to describe a bad neighborhood-- an area that I would refer to as "sketchy" Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 21:44

Sketchy, as in "questionable," is sospechoso:

What a sketchy character Vaya un tipo sospechoso

Other answers mentioned the term "flaite." That's not going to be known anywhere else but Chile, and it also conveys a meaning of being of low upbringing.

After reading your question again and some of the comments, I noticed you are talking about low class and dangerous places or characters. The correct term for that will depend on your assessment of the situation or character. You have a good range there:

  • oscuro
  • sospechoso
  • peligroso
  • criminal
  • de dudosa reputación
  • In general the word that I've heard most is sospechoso but obviously peligroso or oscuro work in many situations.
    – lucuma
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 22:10

As mention above it really depends on the place the phrase is used. For me and from what I'm trying to get of the info you gave, the word that seems more appropriate, at least in Mexico is pintoresco, since it refers to something cute but a little funny or even ironic.

Vi a un indigente, con perros y tocando flautas. Fue muy pintoresco.

  • 1
    I think that pintoresco is not used in that way. In Spain we use pintoresco for landscapes and places, not necessary bad or marginal (in fact pintoresco can be considered a "good thing"). Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 8:09
  • @TheBronx you are right! I assumed that by sketchy it mean something curious, good and cute not at all like the sentence in the new coment, like something bad or marginal.
    – Newbie
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 15:47

I'd say turbio, which would cover both the lack of transparency and darkness implied by the og term.

  • That is not what sketchy means in this context. A place can be well-lit and still feel sketchy.
    – mdewey
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 12:26

Nobody mentioned the word "chungo", which is perfect for that phrase, at least in Spain:

This is the DLE dfinition:

  1. adj. coloq. De mal aspecto, en mal estado, de mala calidad. Una película chunga. El tiempo está chungo; va a llover otra vez.
  2. adj. coloq. Difícil, complicado. Con ese rival, lo tiene muy chungo.

But the common slang usage is described here: https://www.thelocal.es/20220425/spanish-word-of-the-day-chungo

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